Our writer, Frank, picks his three favourite watches from Watches & Wonders 2023 (that happen to be from three different countries).
Armchair Picks: Frank’s 3 of the Best from W&W 2023
Another year, another Watches & Wonders successfully held. It’s always been the most exciting time of the year for the watch-crazed among us and this year is no different. What is slightly different this year though, from my perspective, is the lack of a blockbuster novelty – you know, one that features a never-before-seen super-complication or redefines the way we think of mechanical watchmaking. But that’s okay, because where there was a lack of paradigm-shifting invention, the debutants have more than made up for it in other forms of ingenuity. Here are my three favourite pieces from Watches & Wonders 2023:
Patek Philippe Calatrava 24-Hour Display Travel Time Ref. 5224R-001
It’s not a fancy complication, but the 24-hour display of the Ref. 5224R-001 was pretty unexpected and refreshing from Patek Philippe. If it isn’t already apparent, Patek Philippe has been pushing hard to ‘modernise’ its timepieces in recent years. Evolution is in the DNA of the Swiss brand and indeed it is the only way to remain relevant.
The Calatrava Ref. 5224R-001 features a blue dial, sporty font for numerals, a 42 mm case, and a blue calfskin strap with nubuck finish, presumably to appear more contemporary and appeal to younger clientele. Nevertheless, the watch is still grounded in tradition, as everything else is still old-school Patek Philippe. The 24-hour display format may seem like a complete novelty, but it is in fact inspired by the dial of an old pocket watch produced for Brazilian retailer Gondolo & Labouriau in 1905! Over a century later, it’s made a comeback in wristwatch form, resulting in what might be the most atypical Calatrava in recent memory. For this reason, and the fact that the watch strikes a good balance between the old world and the new world, the Calatrava 24-Hour Display Travel Time Ref. 5524R-001 gets my vote as one of the most interesting debutants from this year’s Watches & Wonders.
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph
The Odysseus had its fair share of doubters when it first came bursting into the luxury watch scene. Most of the dissenting voices have now been turned to quiet admiration. The Odysseus is distinct, and is finely crafted. Those who have had the chance to wear the watch also know how comfortable it is on the wrist. Its multi-tiered, multi-textured dial along with the default day and date windows have become a signature design of the model. An Odysseus with additional complications has always been a question of when, not if.
After four years of waiting, Lange has finally (and expectedly) introduced the chronograph model. What draws me towards the Odysseus Chronograph is the level of thought and consideration put into its design. With the day and date windows already occupying the left and right sides of the dial, the chronograph seconds and minutes displays have been centralised. This omits the need of sub-counters, thus allowing the iconic Odysseus dial design to be retained. I also like that the brand has refrained from adding pushers and instead made do with the existing ones. The same two pushers can be used to adjust the day and date displays, and run the chronograph (by toggling the crown). The Calibre L156.1 that drives the watch is the first automatic chronograph movement from the brand (with vertical clutch for the first time). While it doesn’t quite look as picturesque as a Datograph movement, its finissage remains top notch. All in all, this is a sports watch that has been meticulously designed and crafted for visual appeal, user-friendliness and comfort. I can’t say no to it.
Grand Seiko SBGZ009
The original SBGZ001 is meant to evoke the imagery of snow (through its delicate engravings); the new SBGZ009, the latest addition to the Masterpiece Collection, depicts a white birch forest covered in – you guessed it – snow. The watch is basically the SBGZ001 but with a different, more pronounced style of engraving that, from afar, looks like snow-coated trees. I suppose this shows how highly I think of the SBGZ series of watches – that even when it’s not much of a novelty, it sneaks into my list of top 3 watches. A lot of it has to do with emotion (the main driver of watch collection), but there’s also plenty to do with its perfect case size and dial design, the artisanal level of craftsmanship, the incredibly gorgeous Calibre 9R02, the story-telling, and how it’s come from the revered Micro Artist Studio located in the Northern Japan Alps.
Grand Seiko isn’t usually my cup of tea, but when it comes to their Masterpiece Collection, I am all about Grand Seiko. It was the SBGZ001 that initially did it for me. Chancing upon it in Ginza four years ago blew my mind. The hand-carved dial and case of the SBGZ001 was mesmerising, only to be outdone by the Credor-esque movement visible through the sapphire crystal case back.